LINCOLN — South Sioux City has taken it as a personal challenge this season that many didn't expect much from the defending state runner-up.
But after a thrilling 84-76 overtime win over Elkhorn South in a Class B state tournament semifinal Friday night at the Devaney Center, the Cardinals find themselves in a very familiar position — playing once again for a state championship. South Sioux won titles in 2010 and '11 before falling to Scottsbluff in the 2012 final.
“Only two players from this year's team put in a lot of minutes last year,” Cardinals coach Terry Comstock said. “These guys wanted to prove that they're good basketball players, too.”
Seventh-seeded South Sioux has done it the hard way at state, rallying from a 16-2 deficit to defeat the Storm. The Cardinals trailed by 15 at halftime Thursday against Ralston before battling back for the win.
Comstock's squad got a huge game from senior forward Nate Rogers, who poured in 31 points. Every one of those points was needed in large part because of Elkhorn South junior guard Matt Thomas, who scored eight points in the final 22 seconds of regulation — two 3-pointers from the top of the key and a runner in the lane at the buzzer — to force overtime.
“I was just saying, 'Are you kidding me?' ” Rogers said. “He's a great player, but we were able to overcome it.”
Thomas, who finished with 25 points, also sank a shot from half court just before halftime to send the Storm into the locker room with a 35-23 lead. But it was the Cardinals who came out with more energy in the third quarter, using their pressure defense to pull within 41-38 entering the fourth quarter.
South Sioux appeared to have the game in hand late, leading by seven with a little more than a minute left. But the Cardinals missed just enough free throws, which opened the door for Thomas' mad dashes downcourt and his late barrage of points.
In overtime, South Sioux once again regrouped and refused to let the game slip away. The Cardinals scored 19 points in the four-minute overtime — 10 by Rogers and six by reserve guard Mike Offerman — to nail down the victory.
Sky Aldrich scored 12 points for South Sioux while Jordan Comstock added 10.
“We struggled to keep our composure against their pressure,” Elkhorn South coach Alex Bahe said. “And we just couldn't guard their drive. Rogers is a heck of a player.”
Cal Rutherford scored 13 points and Johnny Trueblood added 10 for the 19-6 Storm, who will play in a consolation game at noon Saturday at Lincoln North Star.
South Sioux City (15-12) ................... 5 18 15 27 19—84
Elkhorn South (19-6) .........................16 19 6 24 11—76
SSC: Alex Borchers 8, Sky Aldrich 12, Jordan Comstock 10, Mike Offerman 8, Nate Rogers 31, Austin Fritza 9, Jimmy Sedivy 6.
ES: Matt Thomas 25, Johnny Trueblood 10, John Wehling 7, JJ Zumbrennen 9, Ben Green 2, Cal Rutherford 13, Tony Pete 10.
Officials: Jacob Wolf, Beau Heiss, Jared Draeger.
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